In 2010 my partner Ira and I embarked on the journey of a lifetime: the trial-by-fire total green renovation (“greenovation”) of our home in Huntington Station.
The germ from which this project sprouted was my desire to invest in green technologies. In the end I didn’t invest in stocks or mutual funds—with the way the stock market was going in 2009 these investments seemed “theoretical” to me—but in our home. This way, instead of receiving a monthly brokerage statement on any losses or gains, I would receive lower monthly utility bills guaranteed. This was a return-on-investment I could live with!
Inspired by countless TV programs—Renovation Nation, Greenovate and Life with Ed (all on the discontinued PlanetGreen channel) and the DIY Channel, among others—we sought out and evaluated the many green options and concepts presented on these shows.
In 2010, after two years of researching the best methods and products for us, we moved out to live in a nearby apartment. With Ira in charge as general contractor, one subcontractor gutted our Cape Cod home. All the appliances, windows, doors, baseboard heating, oil-fired boiler and oil tank were removed.
We donated what still worked to relatives, neighbors and Habitat for Humanity’s ReStore. (ReStore is a discount home improvement store that accepts and re-sells new and reusable home improvement building materials to fund local Habitat building projects.)
We took over the garage as living space, added a portico and put in a sliding glass door at the rear of the house. Two subcontractors sealed and insulated the walls, ceilings, attic and crawl space. Still another replaced all the doors and windows with Energy Star®-rated ones. Another contractor added ductwork and an air handler in the crawl space for our new geothermal heating and cooling system. Our plumber added a tankless hot water heater there. Our new kitchen and bathrooms have Energy Star appliances and water-saver bathroom fittings and fixtures.
Once we were back in our house, a solar installer added a solar PV system on our roof and another contractor buried our new geothermal GeoColumns underground in our backyard and added the heat pump unit in the crawl space.
Our goal was a “net-zero” house. Although this goal was not fulfilled because we couldn’t install enough solar panels to meet our electricity needs, our total utility costs decreased from $3186 in 2009 (the last full year we were in the house before construction) to $1809 in 2012; that’s a 43% reduction, while heating oil prices have increased 44% (based on NYSERDA’s average home heating oil prices for Long Island dated April 16, 2013) from 2010, the last time we purchased fuel oil.
Our home is also vastly more comfortable. In 2009 we had one window air conditioner, now we have central air conditioning, with great humidity control. There are also no more drafts thanks to the sealing and insulation. Our house has earned an Energy Star® label and we expect to achieve LEED designation on our home soon.
After our home “greenovation” our Home Energy Star Yardstick score rose from 4.3 to 9.2! We also had a before and after comprehensive home energy audit. Results showed our house went from 22 air changes an hour (ACH) to 5 after our work was done. That had been one drafty house!
After the completion of this project, we realized few homeowners and commercial property owners would have the time, energy or technical know-how to adequately “greenovate” their buildings. We are here to help you.
Click here for a full photo essay of our “greenovation.”